2 minute read

Chemical Dependency and the Dysfunctional Family - Identifying Chemical Dependency - Two Types Of Dependency

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaChemical Dependency and the Dysfunctional FamilyChemical Dependency and the Dysfunctional Family - Identifying Chemical Dependency - Two Types Of Dependency, Are You Chemically Dependent?

Two Types of Dependency

There are two types of dependency: physical and psychological. Some drugs cause both. Physical dependency means that a person's body needs the drug in order to function normally. The addict may show symptoms of withdrawal when he or she goes without the drug. He or she may shake, sweat, become irritable, and in some cases even hallucinate.

Someone who is psychologically addicted does not believe that he or she can live without the drug. The user experiences a compulsive need to take the drug. Sometimes this craving occurs because the addict wants to feel the drug's pleasurable effects. In other cases the addict is afraid of suffering unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

When someone is physically or psychologically dependent, he or she will do almost anything to get more of the drug.

Physical Addiction

Shaneen is addicted to alcohol. She needs to drink much more now to experience the same buzz she once felt from one or two beers. In fact, Shaneen can drink a whole six-pack without feeling much at all. Her body has built up a tolerance to alcohol and its effects. Tolerance, as you know, means that the body needs more and more of a substance in order to feel the same effect that smaller amounts once caused.

Like many alcoholics, if Shaneen doesn't have a drink, she may get a headache or feel like throwing up, get shaky, and have trouble sleeping. Shaneen's body actually requires alcohol in the same way that it requires food and water to function.

Psychological Addiction

Ray, on the other hand, thinks that he needs cocaine to feel normal. Without it, he is insecure, quiet, and withdrawn. But on cocaine, Ray feels outgoing and confident.

Ray's addiction is primarily psychological. The drug controls his personality and his way of thinking and behaving. Of course, Ray's body has built up the same tolerance as Shaneen's, and he needs more and more coke to get the feeling he used to get with just a little. But even when his body is not craving cocaine, Ray's mind craves it.

Most alcoholics and drug addicts are both physically and psychologically dependent. For example, in addition to needing alcohol physically, Shaneen believes that drinking makes her popular. Ray's mind craves cocaine to feel normal, but his body really does need the cocaine now.

When a person is recovering from addiction, he or she will have to overcome both the physical and the psychological aspects of dependency. Addiction is serious, and a person who is addicted to a chemical substance can't necessarily “just quit” without feeling consequences. Chemical dependency takes over both the body and the mind, and quitting is usually a slow, tough process.

Additional topics